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tv   U.S. Senate Sen. Chris Van Hollen on Coronavirus Bill  CSPAN  March 26, 2020 2:04am-2:20am EDT

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the exponential rise in cases. the package we are voting on to advance tonight will bolster our health care system, infuse funds into biomedical research that will ultimately produce a vaccine and effective treatments, shore up our economy and our businesses, support those who are unemployed, strengthen the length between employers and their employees, save millions of jobs of those employed by small businesses, and help prevent a devastateing recession, perhaps even a depression in this country. let us not squander this momentum when we're so close to getting this done for the
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american people. i urge my colleagues to join me in passing this critical legislation. thank you, madam preside mr. van hollen: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland is recognized. mr. van hollen: thank you, madam president. as other senators have mentioned, we see our fellow americans uniting around the country to fight the coronavirus, to help those in need. most of all, we're grateful to the men and women in health care , the health care system on the front lines of this fight, the nurses, the doctors, all the other staff and hospitals and community health centers in clinics who are putting themselves and their own health at risk to help their fellow americans. and we in the senate, like our fellow americans, must come together to do the right thing for the country at this moment in time.
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to provide a surge of help to those on the front lines of the coronavirus fight and to help those who are suffering from the economic fallout. workers and small businesses and mid-sized businesses and others who are absolutely getting clobbered, as we all try to fight this virus together. and so congress must unite this evening, as we have on two prior occasions during this emergency. when we came together to pass phase one, to provide emergency immediate health care support to public health entities, to provide more funds to do research on a vaccine for the coronavirus, more funds for research on antivirals to address the coronavirus, and then we passed round two, the
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families first act where we made sure that that testing was free because we don't want any american to say i'm not going to get tested even though i feel like i might have the symptoms, i'm not going to get tested because i can't afford it, putting both themselves and others in the community at risk. so we said we have got to make sure these tests are free, and we also provided sick leave, sick leave because we don't want anybody going to work when they feel sick and they have the virus if going to work is the only way they can put food on the table by getting a paycheck. so we said look, stay at home and we'll provide for paid leave. now, there was a gap, a big gap in that that still needs to be addressed, but we took some important measures in phase one and phase two, and now here we are this evening on phase three. where we're not only providing
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additional dollars to fight the coronavirus and the health emergency, but also dealing with the economic fallout which is growing by the day. and i'm not going to go through all the provisions that do that, and i will say that this bill is far from perfect. this is not a bill that i would have written. i dare say it's probably not the bill that any one senator would have written. but with all its flaws, it does some very important things and things that are absolutely necessary during this national emergency. there has been a lot of talk tonight about the uninsurance compensation provision. those are absolutely essential as a lifeline to workers who each day are losing their jobs around the country in many industries. and it is absolutely essential that in that process, people who are out of work through no fault of their own are still able to
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pay their bills or rent or mortgage or keep their lights on or for food, and that's why we are working to make sure they have real replacement income during this four-month emergency period. and the provisions regarding small businesses and middle-sized businesses, those are very important, too. i'm sure we are all hearing from folks who already had to close their doors because when there are no customers coming in the door, there are no sales, no income, and so if you're a small business, you can't make your debt payments and you can't make payroll. so this bill does have a lot of very important provisions in it with respect to small businesses, and i'm really glad that we moved with respect from small businesses to loans only to loans that would be forgiven so long as the small businesses spent those moneys to maintain payroll or hire people if we
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have already let them go and to pay essential bills. because just adding more loans and debt onto small businesses would only be like an anchor around their next at the end of a four-month or whatever period it may be. they wouldn't be able to dig themselves out of that hole. so that was very important to have loans that will be forgiven so long as the loans are used for the intended purposes. and we also made important provisions for nonprofits who hire millions of americans and as well for mid-sized businesses. with respect to some of the largest industries in the country that have been hard hit, it's appropriate to also give them help, but it's also important that as we do that, we safeguard the american taxpayer and the public interest, and when the proposal first arrived here in the senate from the white house, we were looking at about a $500 billion slush fund with no strings attached, no
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real accountability, no real transparency. and so we have tried to tie that down so that we will have an inspector general with subpoena power, so that we will ensure that there will be no stock buybacks with these emergency funds. now, we're going to still look at the fine print, but we have come a long way from the proposed blank check to the president of the secretary of the treasury which was in the bill as it arrived here as proposed by the administration. there is another thing in the bill before us tonight that was not in the bill proposed by the administration, and that is badly needed help for states and cities and towns who are on the front lines of this battle across the country. we heard about five, six days ago from the majority leader, let's just wait. maybe we can do that sometime down the road. well, we have heard from a
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bipartisan group of governors to the national governors' association that they need that help now, and i'm sure you have all been fielding calls from your elected officials, your governors and others about how they desperately need additional help to fight this virus. and so i'm glad that this bill contains $150 billion to help those states. now, madam president, i want to raise tonight something that i discovered about this bill just a few hours ago that gives me real heartburn and actually i believe reflects badly on this united states senate. here's how we distributed the funds to the states. each state, regardless of population, gets $1.2 billion, and then the remainder of the money up to $150 billion is distributed to states based on
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population. now, you can question whether that's the best and most effective way to -- to essentially allocate resources when you're fighting a coronavirus like this, which is more intense in some places than others, but that's not my overall point right now. here is what we discovered. that the people of the district of columbia, people of the nation's capital, were left out of that formula. they are fighting the coronavirus just like americans in every other state and city. they are part of other federal formulas. for example, title 1 for education. highway funds. and other federal formula dollars go to the people of the district of columbia.
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they have a population that is higher than two of the 50 states there are more residents of the district of columbia, the nation's capital, than the state of wyoming and the state of vermont. but they were left out of that category that they are usually put in, and instead they were put into a formula with puerto rico, the virgin islands, american samoa, and some of the territories. and the net effect of that, the net effect of putting people in the nation's capital in that formula versus the formula with the states will cost the district of columbia about $700 million. that's because that other formula is based entirely on
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population, and puerto rico has about three million people in it, and so when you put the district of columbia into that funding kettle, into that funding pot, they get shortchanged $700 million. and that's the case even though the people of the district of columbia -- the people of the district of columbia send the federal treasury more tax dollars than the people of 22 other states. let me say that again. the people of the district of columbia send the i.r.s. more tax revenues than the people of 22 other states. and yet when it came time to write the formula for distributing emergency funds under the coronavirus, they weren't part of the kind of
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funding formulas they normally are. now, i asked about this because i thought maybe this would be a simple fix. i mean, surely in a bill of $2 trillion in emergency relief, we can do right by the people of the district of columbia and not shortchange them $700 million. and the answer i got back was no. no, no, this was not a mistake. this was not an oversight. that republican negotiators insisted on shortchanging the people of the district of columbia. and if i'm wrong about that, it would be a very easy fix in an amendment that could be offered by the majority leader, and i'm sure accepted unanimously, accepted unanimously, except for the fact that this actually was a point that was negotiated. now, madam president, i'm not going to hold up a $2 trillion emergency rescue package that is
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urgently needed by the country for this, but i think it's shameful, i think it's shameful that in a $2 trillion emergency rescue package, we would shortchange the people right here in the nation's capital. people who we see coming into work every day. many of the federal employees who workday in and day out for the federal government. many of them live here, many of them live in surrounding states, many of them live all over the country, but for the people who live here, to shortchange them and to do it intentionally. it is really outrageous. and so here we are coming together, and that's the right thing to do. as i said, this bill has many, many flaws and many, many problems. i certainly wouldn't have writton in this way -- writton this way, and i would never have
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done wrong to the people of the district of columbia the way it was intentionally done in this bill. but overall, we need this boil for the country. we need it because we have a national emergency both on the health care front and economic front. so i hope going away from here, as we come together -- and i hope we'll do the right thing with a large vote -- i hope there will be some senators whoever were part of negotiating that deal who said, no, we're going to shortchange of people of our nation's capital. i hope they will feel a little bit of shame, and i think all those people who didn't with aens to change in provision, which is easy to change, just like that, should feel ashamed. this is our nation's capital, the people who live and work here deserve to be treated with respect. there's no united states senator who represents the people of the district of columbia. some simplify us who live in the
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surrounding areas work hard to do so. i just wish senators from the rest of the country and especially in this case apparently our republican colleagues would show a little respect for the people who live in the capital of this great country. and i yield the floor.the presie majority leader is recognized. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the cloture motion with respect to the motion to proceed to h.r. 748 be withdrawn. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of h.r. 748. further, that the only amendments in order be amendments to be offered by senator mcconnell, 1578, and senator sasse 1577 or their designees. further, that the senate vote on the sasse amendment with a 60-vote affirmative threshold for adoption. further, following disposition of the sasse amendment, t


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